Letting go…

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This image represents a milestone for me and my photography. Not because it is life-altering. Not because it is innovative. Not because it is exotic. Not because it is cutting edge. Not because it was shot with the latest and greatest equipment that cost more than my house (it was shot on my iPhone). Obviously, it is exceedingly NOT any of the above. This image changed the way I view the world and my photography for one simple reason: IT IS REAL. It is a real moment that translates to real emotion. It is a real spring evening with gorgeous, natural light. It is a real moment of friendly competition and wanderlust between my sons Ashton and Blake. And it is really great as an artist to be able to accept something that simply speaks to my heart and soul, regardless of its marketability or what it immediately says about my brand. Yes, I’ve certainly captured REAL before, but I think the real that you’ve seen has always gone through some sort of “ABP Quality Control”, making sure that the viewing public would approve in relation to what falls in line with what they’ve come to expect from a “professional”.

Just now, nearly six years into my career as a full time professional, I am finally, finally learning how to let go. I am finally embracing imperfection. I am finally not concerned about the box I’ve put myself in as a photographer. Don’t get me wrong–I like the box. I’m proud of the box. I worked hard as hell to build that box. That box is my brand, and I will always occupy that space, but finally I am not afraid to get outside of that comfortable, perfectly-within-my-control space.

I am ok if an image is not tack sharp. I’m ok if an image doesn’t cause one’s jaw to drop out of wonder and amazement. I’m ok if I’ve got blown highlights. I’m ok if it doesn’t adhere perfectly to all of the photographic rules by which I’ve abided for so long. And I can tell you that it feels fantastic. Not that I was ever burdened by my brand, but there’s a huge part of me now that feels lighter and more expressive.

For the first time ever I’ve put up a personal gallery on my website. Some of this imagery looks like me. Some of it is pretty and falls precisely in line with what you know me to be as a photographer. Some of it is slightly commercially cliche. Some of it feels like it would be more at home in a family photo album. Some of it looks completely random. Some of it has nothing do to with anything, and I’m totally ok with it. All of it, however,  holds weight with me in some way, shape or form, and finally, I’m not afraid to represent it simply due to that weight alone.

As many of you no doubt do, I have terrabytes of images that have yet to see the light of day simply because they have not fallen within that mold of the brand that I have created. There’s probably some of you reading this post right now with a fair amount of apathy. And really–that’s ok. I don’t expect you to feel the weight of this moment, because it likely seems somewhat insignificant and trivial if you’ve never been here. And I can understand how, from the outside, it’s just another blog post from another photographer that thinks the creative world revolves around him. But really, that’s not it at all. This is as much a journal entry as a blog post, and if you’re here, I appreciate you sharing in this moment!

Don’t worry. I’m still here. I still love sunrise and sunset and storm light and three-dimensional compositions and bold color and the rule of thirds and…you get the point. I’m not entering some strange mid-life hipster stage (though you’d better believe I’d grow me a waxable mustache if I could), nor am I abandoning all of that upon which I’ve built my brand to this point. But finally, I’m not afraid to appear less than perfect. And no, I’m not that delusional–I know what I’ve put out there to this point has been far from perfect, but that was aways my goal. No longer am I concerned with that–I simply want to be more than trying to be perfect. And I’ve finally figured out how…

 

 

Story Behind the Shot: Rio Serrano BW

Black and white landscape photo of Rio Serrano and Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia by Adam Barker Photography

Black and white landscape photo of Rio Serrano and Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia by Adam Barker Photography

I captured this image on the 10th day of a nearly 3-week run and gun mission through the wilds of Chilean Patagonia. The impetus for the trip was really fly fishing, but I knew I would be served numerous opportunities to shoot scenic imagery as well, especially in the famed Torres del Paine National Park.

By day number ten of waking up before the sun, motivation comes more in the form of a slow, sad drip than a flood of excitement and energy. I was tired (aren’t we all???), and as I set my alarm clock for yet another mind-numbing hour, I wondered if I was really going to rise and shine, or even rise at all. Throw in the fact that skies were socked in and the likelihood of morning light was minimal, and I was darn near comatose by the time my head hit the pillow.

4:30 am came way too early, and as I peered out my window, my fears (hopes???) were confirmed as the weather still looked to be less than ideal for a sunrise shoot. I was a mixed bag of fatigue-induced emotions, equal parts stoked to justify a few more hours of sleep as well as disappointed that my hopes for an epic sunrise were dashed. I lay back down–restless. Minutes ticked by…I couldn’t do it. I had to get up. No matter how I tried to justify, I could not…not shoot. Here I was in one of the most wildly beautiful places on earth, and damn it all if a few clouds and half-closed eyelids were going to hold me back…

I frantically threw on my clothes, grabbed my pack, turned on my headlamp and out the door I went.

As part of a larger group during the entirety of this trip, I did not have my own car, so I was relegated to shooting locations that were relatively easy to get to from where we were staying. As I walked hurriedly up the dirt road, the clouds began to clear a bit, and the ambient light began to grow brighter.

Let’s clarify something real quick here–dawn is a fantastic time to shoot landscape imagery. The light is soft and inviting. It is one of my favorite types of light to shoot. Dawn, however, is incredibly fleeting. It does not occur right before sunrise. Typically, dawn happens about 8-15 minutes before sunrise. These were the thoughts that were going through my head as I watched dawn grow closer…and closer. I quickly realized that I had myself in quite a conundrum…I was still a decent ways away from my pre-selected shooting spot.

So I did what any photographer would do when suffering from the immediate effects of FOMI (Fear Of Missing It–closely related to FOMIA [fear of missing it ALL]).I STARTED RUNNING. I’m not talking casual fast-paced walk here. I’m talking Usaine Bolt arm-pumping, foaming at the mouth, heart coming through my throat sprint with a fully loaded camera pack. My lungs felt like the inside of a crematorium–I promise you I was closer to respiratory failure than Joan Rivers is to her next facial procedure…

With no time to spare, I arrived at “the spot”. I threw my pack on the ground, wrestled my camera onto the tripod, inserted the cable release, grabbed a grad filter and clicked away like the crazed photographer that I was/am. Sunrise was a bit of a bust, but dawn was worth every minute on the pain train. Moral of the story? Don’t set your alarm if you don’t plan on getting up. And if you do plan on getting up, don’t go back to bed for 10 min before putting yourself through hell to capture the goods. Oh, and the real moral of the story??? Don’t give yourself a choice. ALWAYS get up and go. I’ve never regretted getting skunked behind the lens, but I certainly wouldn’t mind taking back all the times I buried my head in the pillow…

Antarctica Photo Tour 2015

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We have officially opened registration for our 2015 Antarctica Photo Tour. This year’s adventure was absolutely jaw-dropping and unforgettable on all accounts! Click the link below for details. Contact us at adam@adambarkerphotography.com or 801-550-9141 to register or with any questions! Space is limited, and will go quickly! Antarctica is the hottest selling trip in the world right now. Don’t miss your opportunity to check this one off the bucket list!

http://www.adambarkerphotography.com/workshops/antarctica-2015/1/

 

“Dear Facebook”…

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Dear Facebook:

I feel like maybe I should be doing this in person, as opposed to a detached, heartless online letter. We have, after all, spent a lot of time with each other over the past several years. You’ve been there for the birth of my children, my travels round the world and the intimate, awkward and even heartbreaking moments with family and friends.

Perhaps more importantly, you’ve connected me with countless individuals and entities that share in my passion for photography and photo education. You were kind—almost too kind. At times, showering me with (sometimes less than deserved) praise on a daily basis, relaying the energetic and enthusiastic words of our mutual friends, and even providing insight and critique on occasion.

We grew together—you more than me (HELLO!!!), but hey, you always had more friends anyway. I’m happy for you—really, I am. Ecstatic? Hardly. Jealous? Not even. Hurt? Maybe (sigh…)

I wish I could say it’s not you, it’s me. I mean—that always worked in the past. But this time FB (is it cool if I still call you FB despite this minor quibble?), it’s most definitely you. We used to hang out all the time. BIZ BUDDIES! Right?!? We were so good together. I’d post fancy pants pictures, you’d show all our friends and we’d all party for a couple of hours—ya know—high fives, lots of online love, a like here–a share there. We were unbeatable you and me. But suddenly, you’ve grown incredibly distant (gulp…).  FB, you’ve…changed.

I know you hate hearing this, but I feel like this relationship has grown incredibly lopsided. I mean, I come to hang out and you don’t even respond. Are you seeing somebody else? Are you even attracted to me anymore?!? Is it because I said your sister was hot? Was it my application vid for The Bachlelorette? Is it because I’m a Mormon (that’s right, I said it). Is it my teeth? DAMNIT!!! IT’S MY TEETH!!! I knew I should’ve gotten braces. Thanks for nothing, Mom.

Really though, it’s like…it’s like you hoard my posts for you and you alone. WHY YOU GOTTA BE SO CONTROLLING LIKE THAT YO!?! (Oops, sorry. Excuse the white rapper talk. Sometimes I get a little worked up…) I’m starting to question why I even come around anymore. I mean, I’ve spent so much time on us—it’s hard to just turn my back and leave, but I really feel like you’re forcing my hand here. I have…(dare I say it???) other interests. You’re not the only one in my life either you know! Is that a what?!? A threat? Yes!!! Grrrrr. Kind of. Err…sort of. Um…well, not really. I guess threats don’t work if you don’t really care. It’s more of a last ditch effort for just a little bit of attention.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I still need you. But you’ve grown incredibly demanding. And your taste is effing expensive. I know, I know—you have your needs. Well geez FB, what about my needs?!? Did you ever happen to think that little Mr. Small Business over here in  Salt Lake City can’t afford your needs!?!

Ok sorry. It’s not your fault. Or maybe it is, but in the interest of keeping this (one-sided) conversation civil, I’ll try and wrap this up. It is, after all, your place. You’ve been so kind in letting me hang out rent-free for all these years, but I simply can’t justify the cost to “hang with the big boys”.

So…(wipes tear), where do we go from here? Ultimatum time?!? I wish. I just need you to know I still care. I want to be biz buddies again. You’ve introduced me to so many wonderful people, but we never see each other anymore. You’ve given me quantifiable return, and I appreciate that. But the gate master (yes, I’m looking at you), seems to have tossed the key, and no amount of love or attention will bring it back, sans an unfeasible amount of my hard-earned casheesh.

I’ll miss you FB. Really, I will. You might see me, though my attention will be a little (err…a lot) less devout. I hope we can work this out.

I’ll (mostly) always love you,

ABP

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UPPA: Unsolicited Professional Photographer Advice

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What’s that??? You didn’t ask for advice?! Well, here you are. You’ll read this and you’ll like. Whether you like it or not. ;)

I am frequently consulted by young, eager individuals wondering what they can do to secure a career as a professional photographer. My advice varies depending on the day, but today, it is this:

Success doesn’t pay the bills. MONEY pays the bills. Learn to monetize your successes.

One might naturally think that success begets riches, but that is far from true, especially in a world where “success” or that warm fuzzy feeling inside is just a couple of “likes” away…

Remember this: monetization is not selling out. Charging a premium for your hard-earned and well-developed skill set does not make you less of an artist or a creator. Feel-goods are all good and well, but you can’t pay the mortgage with social media likes, you won’t feed your kids with life experience, and the bank doesn’t recognize a 1st place ribbon as a form of currency.

Arguably, all of these things (and so much more) can make you a rather successful photographer, but unless you learn how to turn that success into dollar signs, you’re going to be researching applications on the interwebz for that next day job.

Being a “professional photographer” certainly is about much more than cold hard cash in the bank. But making a living as a photographer, at its very root, relies upon zeroes and decimal points, just like any other business.

On a positive parting note: this is all entirely possible. I know it. I believe it. I live it. And you can too. Just don’t forget the important schtuff.

Behind the Shot: Mountain Khakis Early Spring Catalog Cover

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Can it really already be considered “early Spring”??? I guess the good folks at Mountain Khakis think so, as has been made known by the arrival of their early Spring catalog, featuring a cover and a load of other images from our catalog shoot last summer in Oregon and along the Salmon River.

I was fired up to see they chose an especially fun shot for the cover, one that took some quick thinking on both the technical and creative end of things. The short of it is that this image nearly never happened. We had about 30 min before we were supposed to head out and prep for a sunset shoot along Lake Wallowa and we decided to make use of an old Willy’s Jeep (in immaculate condition) that had been loaned to us by a kind local.

Much of the imagery we focus on with these catalog shoots is capturing the spontaneous and fun nature of the MK lifestyle. I’m always looking for an emotive image–one that makes people want to be a part of this brand/lifestyle. With that in mind, I wanted to get up close and personal as the talent was epitomizing random summer fun with an old jeep and a longboard.

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I quickly set up a Manfrotto Magic Arm on the front side panel of the jeep. Shooting a Canon 5D MKII with an 8-15mm fisheye lens meant I could capture all of the action from an angle very near the driver. I attached an intervalometer to the camera and set it to take a picture every second until I stopped the sequence. Everything was set…and then the Jeep got a little cranky. We couldn’t get it started and finally resorted to pushing the jeep and compression starting this hearty hunk of metal.

What ensued was several trips up and down the highway, experimenting with different shutter speeds and camera positions, running alongside hooting and hollering and generally having a blast in mid-day light. It also took an exceptionally gifted clutch/gas operator to keep the Jeep running. Nice work Nate Morgan! It seems like the best ideas always face the most hurdles! Don’t give up on that vision!

Check out the vid below for a little BTS vid action from the entire shoot, and a better view of our setup for this image.

 

 

Recap w BTS Video: Mountain Khakis SS14 Catalog Shoot

It’s cold and snowy outside at the moment here in UT (finally!), but I’m just now getting around to posting a recap of a ridiculously fun and productive shoot with the Mountain Khakis crew. Per the norm, we were able to combine the “work hard/play hard” mentality, and the entire shoot was a blur of catching my breath, yelling at talent (or not) and constantly remarking at how much I love my job.

The two primary locations for this shoot were Joseph, OR and the Main Salmon River. Both offered unique opportunities to capture “life untucked” in all it’s authentic glory. Check the gallery above for images as well as the BTS video below (shot by NS Innovative). We’re already planning our Fall/Winter 14 shoot–should be another epic!

 

 

Take Me Fishing Ad Campaign

I’m a blogging slacker, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy!

I was recently approached by local ad agency Fluid about a project they were working on for TakeMeFishing.org. Below is the resulting campaign–I think they did a wonderful job with the creative!

Surround Yourself with Greatness…

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The advent of digital imaging has opened up the world of professional-grade imaging to an audience far greater than most photographers could have ever imagined. Yes–it’s true–it has never been easier to shoot a “pretty good” image, and people are catching on. It is super cool to see so many people fired up about photography, but with that new, sexy appeal comes its own challenges for those that make their living as full-time professional photographers. I’ll stop there…this is not another rant about my cousin’s uncle’s pony’s dog that just stole a great job from under my nose because he charges way less than me or (insert commonplace pro photog rant here). In fact, this post is quite the opposite.

It has always been apparent to me that we will never truly reach our greatest potential if not pushed by some outward influence. Whether that be encouragement from friends/family, discouragement from naysayers, or something somewhere in between, we will never really know what we’re capable of until pushed beyond that which we thought was our previous best.

My answer to this moderately crowded profession??? Embrace the competition. Surround yourself with greatness. Be confident in your own ability to produce something that has your own unique style/brand/stamp/calling card. Most importantly, BE BETTER. Don’t waste your time wondering why you weren’t published here or hired there–figure out who just got whatever you wanted, and what you can do to get it next time.

I was browsing the latest issue of Powder magazine and was blown away at both the number and quality of images put out by photographers that make their home right here in Salt Lake City. I’m proud to call many of them friends, and I’m even more proud to have my work included amidst theirs. If you want to be better than the best, you must surround yourself with the best. Then watch, listen and learn–don’t gripe, covet or make excuses.

These days, with the interwebz in every nook, cranny and nether region of planet Earth, we have the entire world at our finger tips. See your competition for the motivating force that it can be–and then be better.

 

Manfrotto BeFree Ad Campaign

Great to see the ads rolling out from our work earlier this year for Manfrotto and the BeFree tripod. This was such a stellar shoot, with an incredible crew of people involved. Check out the full BeFree site for more imagery and videos from this shoot.

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